April 2006 News

Militants active in by-poll areas of north Kashmir

3 April 2006
The Hindu
Shujaat Bukhari

Srinagar: With the electoral process set in motion for three Assembly constituencies in north Kashmir, the area is being focused not only by security agencies but also by militants and separatist leaders. Though Sopore is not among the three constituencies, where by- elections are to be held on April 24, the killing of a councillor on Sunday evening will have its impact in the adjoining Sangrama as also Rafiabad where elections are to be held. In fact, Sangrama is just two km away from Mohalla Baba Raza where Sopore councillor Mohammad Afzal was shot dead. 'It is a fact that militants are operating in this area and they will try to create fear among the people on the eve of elections,' said a senior security official. Only two days back militants targeted People's Democratic Party's candidate from Sangrama who, however, escaped. Sources said militants had become active in the areas going to the polls to ensure that there was less participation. 'Choosing a soft target could be a signal for those associating themselves with the electoral process. But it simply is their frustration and desperation,' Inspector-General K. Rajendra said. Pattan segment, the sources said, was also not an exception. However, the authorities have geared up to make foolproof arrangements so that militants are not allowed to disrupt the polls or harm the candidates or their supporters. Besides the Jammu and Kashmir Police, two battalions of the Central Reserve Police Force, roughly comprising 2,400 jawans, have been deployed in the area. 'We are taking all necessary measures to see that elections are peaceful,' said Mr. Rajendra. While the former Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, kicked of the campaign from Baramullah on Sunday, the separatists also launched their campaign asking people to boycott the elections. The Hurriyat Conference, led by Syed Ali Geelani, and Democratic Freedom Party's Shabir Shah toured various areas in these three constituencies urging people not to vote.


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